Sunday, June 5, 2016

Chapter 5 - Wilmington to Cape Hatteras, NC

June 3rd, Day 7: We were on the road this morning by 7:30 am headed north to Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For the next two nights we are scheduled to stay at the Cape Hatteras KOA Resort, a highly rated and rather expensive place to stay.  But then everything is expensive on the Outer Banks as it is a very popular tourist resort. We are looking forward to seeing what it is all about.  What does bother us a bit is that for the last several days it has been raining heavily in this area, part of Tropical Storm Bonnie, and we sure do not want to spend the next few days in the rain.

Fortunately while it was not raining when we arrived it was overcast and the RV park was wet and muddy in some places like right in front of our trailer.  On the positive side, one advantage of the possibility of poor weather is that it has kept the tourists away and the RV Park and the Hwy 12 down the cape were not particularly crowded. Saturday early morning it did rain very hard for around one hour and the lightning and thunder were almost frightening.  The rain stopped by around 6:00 am and several hours later the sun came out.  Our only downside was that our front yard was flooded as shown in the photo above.  We laughed and decided to ignore this negative (lake) particularly since we planned to be away from the campground for much of Saturday.

One wonderful thing about our campground is that it is located directly on the Atlanta Ocean and the walk from our trailer to the beach was under two minutes.  While this photo does not show it, the beach was surprisingly crowded considering the poor weather. Between the campsite and the ocean were large sandy dunes which run along the Outer Banks for almost its entire 150 mile length. Kathy got her feet wet as we walked along the shoreline and she reported that the water was very chilly particularly for a Floridian like herself. Nevertheless there were people in the water swimming, surfing, and kayaking, and even a few were fishing. Our evening as usual was quiet.  I cooked on the grille, enjoyed dinner, we watched TV, finally falling asleep for the first time since we have left our home in Florida without the air conditioner roaring above our head.  As I stated earlier, we woke up well rested to a loud thunderstorm.

June 4th, Day 8: Today we plan to do a lot of driving first heading south around 30 miles where we plan to visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the city of Hatteras. We then will return around and drive another 70 miles or so north up to Nags Head and eventually to Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers National Monument. That sounds like a lot of driving but we plan to spend the better part of the morning and half the afternoon just being tourists and there is no hurry. One thing did come as quite a surprise was to discover that up and down the entire length of Hwy 12 running the full length of the Cape, there were flooded sections of the road that brought traffic to almost a standstill.  All part of the experience we suppose of visiting our country.

One of the highlights of our day has to be our visit to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built back in 1870 but because its original location was being threatened by shoreline erosion, in 1999 the lighthouse was moved to a safer and in many ways a more lovely park like setting.  We arrived at the lighthouse just as it opened at 9:00 am.  To climb the lighthouse one must be willing to walk up 257 steps, and neither Kathy or I had any interest in making an attempt although the view from the top has to be magnificent.  We were more than satisfied to walk around the area and of course in Kathy's case, spend time in their gift store. Incidentally, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse at 207 feet tall is the tallest lighthouse in the United States.  We have seen one of the best already and we are only in our second week of travels.

One other interesting aspect of the Outer Banks Scenic Highway that we mentioned earlier is that almost nowhere along its entire length is there a view of the Atlantic Ocean.  All that we could see as we drive down the highway are large sand dunes on the ocean side most with plantings to hold the sand in place although here and there the plantings have been washed away probably due to the recent heavy rain storms. When we drove down the highway yesterday there were large construction loaders moving the sand off the road pavement.

On the way north towards Nags Head we stopped at another widely visited lighthouse by the name of the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Construction of this lighthouse was completed in 1872. Its 158 foot height makes it the 13th tallest lighthouse in the United States, slightly smaller I might add than the 165 foot St Augustine Lighthouse which is the 8th tallest and of course, considerably smaller than the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. We must have spent ten minutes taking photos since everyone wanted to have their photos taken and I seem to have been the chosen photographer.  At least Kathy and I (and Cabo) were able to get our own group photo as part of the deal.

On thing about the Outer Banks is that it does cater to tourists and this seems to include almost every major home along the water since they all seem to be covered with For Rent signs.  While this house shown in the photograph is not necessarily typical of every home since they all vary in size, design, and color, it does share one very common feature in that most are four stories tall with the first floor being reserved for parking (obviously due to the possibly of flooding).  Driving through the small cities along the coastline is made even more enjoyable because of these often very colorful homes some painted in bright colors of pink, blue, and green.

Our final stop of the day was at the Wright Brothers National Memorial located up near the top end of the Outer Banks just north of Nags Head.  This site is the location where the Wright Brothers made their first successful flights back on December 17, 1903.  Back at the time the site was a large sandy and flat section of land.  Now it is a grassed area complete with a museum, a monument, and a few other items to help explain what occurred back over 100 years ago. Fortunately the National Memorial was part of the National Park System and our lifetime senior pass allowed us access to the site free of charge. It was also free because Kathy did not feel it necessary to stop (or shop) at the Visitors Center.

The monument at the top of the hill known as Kill Devil Hill is the Wright Brothers Monument.  The Wright Brothers made four successful flights on December 17th ranging in distance from 120 feet to 852 feet. After driving around and looking at the different exhibits within the Memorial for around 45 minutes, we decided to begin our 45 minute drive south back to our campground.  We returned to our "tiny home" by 3 o'clock ready to finally rest after driving and visiting the many wonderful sites on the Outer Banks for almost seven hours.  Tomorrow our drive up to Willamsburg, Virginia is expected to take us only a little over three hours.  Frankly, that for us will be a piece of cake.   

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